Suicides Increased in 2021, CDC Says

The number of suicides in the United States rose in 2021, with the most significant increase among men aged 15 to 24.

The number and the rate of suicides in the US increased by 4% from 2020 to 2021, from 45,979 to 47,646, respectively, according to the provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. Men accounted for most (38,025) deaths, while 9,621 women took their own lives.

It is an increase after two consecutive years of decline in 2019 and 2020. However, the number of suicides last year was still lower than the all-time high of 48,344 in 2018.

The rise of suicides was higher among males (4%) than females (2%), with the largest increase (8%) in the suicide rate — the number of deaths per 100,00 people — among males aged 15-24.

While the suicide rate for girls aged 10–14 increased by 15% from 2020 to 2021, the CDC says the change did not reach statistical significance because it was based on relatively few cases: 204 deaths in 2020 and 237 in 2021.

In 2022, the US transitioned to the three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The previous 10-digit Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts in 2021, and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) expects the number to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition.

The CDC says that in 2020, an estimated 12.2 million adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million made a plan, and 1.2 million attempted suicide.

Warning signs of suicide, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), are:

  • Often talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Expressions of having no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life; saying things like "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out."
  • Increased alcohol and/or drug misuse
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
  • Reckless behavior or more risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being a burden to others

The CDC recommends contacting the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

Resources:

CDC. Suicide Increases in 2021 After Two Years of Decline.

CDC. Provisional Numbers and Rates of Suicide by Month and Demographic Characteristics: United States, 2021.

HHS. U.S. Transition to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Begins Saturday.

American Psychiatric Association. Suicide Prevention.

CDC. Prevention Strategies.

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